Taxes and spending are hot topics as legislators file proposed bills

Posted Jan. 07, 2011, at 12:24 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s newly elected legislators faced their first hurdle Friday as the deadline arrived to file bills for the 2011 session, but relatively few of the bills are fully developed, leaving only a sampling of issues to come up in the months ahead.

However, taxes and spending — as suggested during the election campaign — will be on the table in the six months ahead. So will a variety of other proposals ranging from extending the school year from 180 days to 185 days to requiring candidates for public office to show proof of citizenship.

No complete listing of bills was expected to be available Friday due to the time constraints of compiling all of the information. Only a few dozen of the bills that are to appear this session had been printed, said Suzanne Gresser, who’s in charge of the process.

In the event of emergencies or other developing issues, bills can be introduced with approval of legislative leaders after the cloture deadline.

Republican promises to streamline regulations, halt government growth and hold the line on taxes will be taken up by the GOP-majority House and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney of Springvale is proposing to dedicate any growth in general fund revenues to reductions in individual income taxes. The bill is aimed at reducing the top tax rates from 8.5 percent to 4.5 percent and increasing to $30,000 the income threshold below which families don’t pay income tax.

Sen. David Trahan, who co-chairs the Taxation Committee, wants to tighten oversight of Maine Revenue Services, which he believes has been too freewheeling in interpreting tax policy set by the Legislature.

“I want to put an end to this,” said the Waldoboro Republican, who envisions “an early warning system” to alert lawmakers to such changes.

Naples Republican Rep. Richard Cebra wants to require an independent audit of state government every four years starting in 2013.

Cebra also proposes making candidates for public office show proof of United States citizenship through documents such as a certified copy of a birth certificate and driver’s license. The proposal surfaces months after Portland voters rejected a referendum proposal to extend voting rights to non-U.S. citizens.

Addressing health care costs, Rep. Brian Bolduc, D-Auburn, proposes limiting annual salary and compensation package of hospital administrators to the annual salary of the governor, $70,000.

Before cloture fell at 4 p.m., many other proposals appeared only in vague, title-only form. The number of bills is expected to be in the 2,000 range. Lows hovered around 1,700 last session, and 2,600 bills were filed during the 1999-2000 session, Gresser said. The governor is not bound by the bill-submission deadline.

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